Torii Hunter – 2009 Upper Deck
March 13, 2011
Should The Twins Have Kept Hunter?
Torii Hunter probably would have given the Twins some sort of ‘hometown’ discount, maybe. He was coming off of a pretty darn good offensive season, and won the Gold Glove at age 31.
But I believe the Twins made the right call in not signing him to a long-term contract after 2007.
The Twins were still payroll-shy at that point, and knew they had to deal with Justin Morneau’s and Joe Mauer’s contract. Hunter wanted not only big money, but a long-term deal that would take him to his age 36 year. They have money to spend now, thanks to two events. First, Target Field opened and the fans supported outdoor baseball with a passion, beyond the wildest dreams of Twins management. Second, Carl Pohlad died – and the old man controlled the purse strings.
But more than financial, Hunter was a sound baseball decision that looked beyond 2008 and 2009.
He had his typical offensive years the past three seasons, but his defense slipped. Actually, his defense started to slip earlier (he had a -1.6 DWAR in 2007 when he won the Gold Glove) but it would have been really noticeable with how often Jason Kubel and Delmon Young played out in the outfield. Hunter’s probably giving away to Peter Bourjos this season.
While Carlos Gomez had the hype at first, Denard Span became a legitimate offensive threat. Yes, he stunk in 2010 but he’s still got a greater upside than Hunter, and I think he’s focused on improving all aspects of his play this year. (His defense was pretty bad in 2010 as well.)
And the Twins have decent outfield prospects coming up as well; they would have been totally blocked if Hunter, Span, Kubel, Cuddyer, and Young were all around. Now, one of the youngsters can be a defensive replacement and ease in, and Kubel, Young and Cuddyer can all rest a bit while Thome gets his at-bats.
But the most important reason is that Hunter would have three seasons left on his deal (2011, 2012, 2013). That would have totally handcuffed the Twins.
First, they couldn’t have signed Nishioka, who is going to be a pretty darn good player.
Second, they probably couldn’t have taken care of Joe Nathan, or acquired Matt Capps, or signed Carl Pavano.
Third, as much as I derided Delmon Young when I first moved up here, he was a pretty good offensive player in 2010. With Hunter around, he’s probably not around or not playing much.
Fourth, the Twins probably don’t have the flexibility to sign Jim Thome in 2010, and then get him back for 2011, if Hunter’s around, since that’s a roster spot that the Twins would need to give to someone like Kubel, Young, or Cuddyer.
Fifth, in 2013, where could Hunter play? How much would he hit? Would he be a better player than Ben Revere or Joe Benson?
Hunter was one of those guys that could have spent his entire career in one place. Had he not wanted a six-year deal, he may have. Sometimes you need flexibility, and Hunter was going to be moving down the defensive spectrum. And in Target Field, playing CF like Kenny Lofton post-2003 was not an option.
Now Hunter’s probably a corner outfielder for a team that is probably needing to rebuild. And the question is could he outhit the Cuddyer / Kubel / Young / Thome cotillion? Probably not.
But when Torii comes back to Minnesota, we’ll all cheer – at least his first time at the dish.